Hand-shift motorcycle racers dance to a different beat

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For both riders, racing in the hand-shift class has become something of an addiction. “The people are incredible,” Tuffli says. “You look at me, not everybody is going to warm up to me; these people did. And riding hand shift, now you’re like a Samurai with the club.” Wessel agrees. “I’m an addict and this is my fix,” he says, adding, “And it’s a good, healthy addiction, a good family-oriented sport even if it’s not recognized that way.”


Tuffli and Wessel both rode in the 2010 season opener at Roebling Road and Daytona in March. Tuffli managed a pair each of third- and fourth-place finishes in hand shift and pre-1940, while Wessel crossed the line in second place four times. For Tuffli, it was probably his last race of the season on the Harley. “My skinny ass can’t throw that bike around,” Tuffli says. “I’m building a 175 Honda twin to do the LeMans start. I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I saw it; it’s so cool.”

Wessel, however, is staying put: “In all honesty, I’m probably one of the bigger mouths promoting the old rivalry between Harley and Indian. I’ve got to try to defend this championship for Indian. Kyle Corser had it for Harley for two years, and before him Art Farley, and before Art, Will Harding had it for seven seasons on an Indian.” Wessel and Tuffli may not have started on old V-twins, but after seven combined years riding 1930s-era bikes as fast as they can go, nobody can say they don’t have a personal connection to their old American iron. MC


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